#EngineeringAtNUVA: From K’nex toys to Engineering Medical Devices

#EngineeringAtNUVA is a new series that will highlight talented engineers who make up NuVasive Engineering. Every feature will have a unique set of questions to give you the most diverse knowledge into Engineering at NUVA including roles within Manufacturing, Development, Software, and Electrical Engineering. The series is for students interested in the field, for prospective engineers who want to understand our culture, and for those intrigued to meet some of our incredibly intelligent Shareowners!

Our next feature for #EngineeringAtNUVA is Kevin, Sr. Development Engineer in the Interbody Development department.

Kevin, why did you choose to work as an Engineer in the Medical Device industry versus other industries?

Medicine was something I had always been interested in while growing up—mainly influenced by my mom being a nurse/echo sonographer. The Medical Device industry became more meaningful to me compared to other industries since I could directly use my skills and knowledge to create solutions to medical problems that would end up improving a patient’s quality of life and happiness. Being able to help others is a passion of mine and being able to design and create the solutions that are used by surgeons is incredibly humbling and rewarding.

How long have you been at NUVA?

I have been at NuVasive almost three years now. I started as a Development Engineer and was promoted to Senior Development Engineer during my time here, all on the Interbody Product Development team. My main focus within this team has been the new product development of the implants and instruments used in some of our ACDF and ALIF procedures.

Is there a specific class or skill that you wish you took or learned prior to graduating college that would positively impact your work today?

From a technical prospective, I wish my university’s Mechanical Engineering program had offered or incorporated more of a focus towards medical device in general. This could include design for medical applications, FDA testing and design control documentation, biocompatibility of materials, etc. On the non-technical side, project management is another important skill that I use every day.

What was your path from realizing you wanted to be an Engineer to working at NuVasive today?

Growing up I always enjoyed designing, building things, or figuring out how things worked, and I was pretty good in my math and science classes. In high school, I was in the pre-engineering program called Project Lead the Way, which gave me a lot of experience and fundamental knowledge in different engineering disciplines and problem solving. That program really guided my decision in studying Mechanical Engineering in college. While in college, I still had interest in medicine and medical devices, so I had reached out to some professors and other professionals to try to get some better understanding of where I wanted to focus. Additionally, I had two internships throughout college—one within the energy industry and another in manufacturing of thin plastic films. Both of those internships made me realize the enjoyment I have for problem solving, which is the essential task of engineers in any industry. During my senior year of college, I was able to conduct an independent research project on the hip replacement with a professor of mine, which really solidified my passion in medical device engineering.

After college, I worked at Yale University doing research and designing an anthropomorphic, multi-grasp, body-powered prosthetic hand. I was able to learn a ton about prosthetics, and we were able to test out the hand our team designed with some amputees, which was amazing to see it all come to life.


From there, I have been with NuVasive, where I have been able to further expand my knowledge and skills in the spine industry. All of these opportunities have shown me the impact engineers can truly make in our world and really shaped why I wanted to become an engineer.

Can you share what inspired you to pursue Engineering?

K’nex were definitely the first inspiration that led me into engineering as a kid. Other inspirations were Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from MythBusters, and the show How It’s Made. In addition, my main inspiration has been the overall huge innovation of technology over the past 10-20 years. It’s incredible to reflect on how much has changed from what I was using as a kid to what I’m using now and knowing that there were a ton of scientists and engineers making what seemed impossible, possible. That’s something I want to continue to be a part of and contribute towards.

For those deciding on which type of engineering path to pursue, what would be your advice?

Gain some hands-on experience with the different disciplines, whether it’s internships, classes, or just side projects and experiments. My two internships were not in the medical device industry, and even classes I had taken not focused on anything medical, all gave me a lot of insight into the certain aspects I enjoyed and also really allowed me to know what my interests were. Also, network and reach out to different professionals and professors to hear about their perspectives in the fields they’re involved in.

Finally, what makes Engineering at NuVasive unique in your opinion?

The people, culture, and passion are truly something that is unique at NuVasive. We are able to collaborate and work as a team to deliver the best products to surgeons and patients, all starting from the concept phases. Improving patient’s lives by being part of a team that brings these products to life, is truly something that is special.

Interested in the engineering field at NuVasive? Learn about open roles and what it takes to be an engineer with NUVA by clicking here.

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